Monday, February 12, 2018

Weekly Margin, 2018 W6: Relevance, Hey, Look Me Over!, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box

1/10/18: Relevance
What: At a literary conference, Lifetime Achievement honoree Theresa goes head to head on the topic of feminism with newcomer (and grant winner) Msemaji, and when their panel debate goes viral, both must reckon with the value of the individual voice versus the cacophony of social media.
And? I caught this early enough in previews - and rewrites - that several scenes had actors with script in hand. That being said, I found this a compelling exploration of the importance of the individual, as opposed to being defined solely by othering labels. I don't know that the playwright has as yet presented as balanced an examination as he ultimately wants, since it's so clear in the opening scene that Theresa starts out in the wrong, and never quite recovers enough for us to consider she might have the higher ground. The cast was pretty great, particularly the two leads, Pascale Armand and Jayne Houdyshell.

Jayne Houdyshell and Pascale Armand as Theresa and Msemaji. Photo by
Joan Marcus.

1/10/18: Hey, Look Me Over!
What: Bob Martin revives his Man in Chair persona from The Drowsy Chaperone to curate a revue  in honor of New York City Center Encores!'s 25th anniversary, selecting songs from eight musicals (and an overture from a ninth) of the past they haven't yet visited. (Wildcat, All American, Jamaica, Milk and Honey, Mack & Mabel, Greenwillow, Sail Away, George M!, and the overture from Subways are for Sleeping)
And? Listen, I had fun. Was it a coherent revue? Not really. But I knew to expect that going in. I got what I love to get out of the Encores! series: a glimpse at shows I probably won't get to see full production of, with a full orchestra and top notch talent. In this case, the only music I knew ahead of time was Mack & Mabel, "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" from Sail Away, and "Give My Regards to Broadway" from George M! - everything else was new to me. Highlights: Bob Martin's sweet and off-beat Man in Chair, Carolee Carmello's robust "Hey, Look Me Over!," Douglas Sills and Alexandra Socha completely charming us as the titular Mack and Mabel, Clifton Duncan bringing the house down with "Never Will I Marry," and Bebe Neuwirth reminding us why she's a legend with "Why Do the Wrong People Travel."

Douglas Sills and Alexandra Socha perform from Mack & Mabel.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

1/10/18: He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box
What: Kay, a young black woman, a child of persecution and segregation in 1941, loves and is loved by aspiring actor (and young white man), Chris. With the shadow of impending war, the two write letters between New York and Georgia, planning their future and telling stories of their families, terrible stories rendered more terrible by their straightforward telling.
And? Piercing and brief, Adrienne Kennedy's delicate new work doesn't overexplain itself or its characters, but rather lets us see their inner hearts, their dreams and limited understanding of their own history. Juliana Canfield, making her professional New York stage debut, is particularly compelling as Kay, haunted and hopeful. The design is powerful as well, with Austin Switser's projections taking us on train rides, into snow, and everywhere else the two character journey or remember. Christopher Barreca's set, a long staircase leading up to closed doors, gives haunting finality to the play's final moments. Impeccable work.

Juliana Canfield and Tom Pecinka as Kay and Chris. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

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